So our pleasant visit was over. Milly’s good little curate had been much thrown in her way by our deep and dangerous cousin Monica. He was most laudably steady; and his flirtation advanced upon the field of theology, where, happily, Milly’s little reading had been concentrated. A mild and earnest interest in poor, pretty Milly’s orthodoxy was the leading feature of his case; and I was highly amused at her references to me, when we had retired at night, upon the points which she had disputed with him, and her anxious reports of their low-toned conferences, carried on upon a sequestered ottoman, where he patted and stroked his crossed leg, as he smiled tenderly and shook his head at her questionable doctrine. Milly’s reverence for her instructor, and his admiration, grew daily; and he was known among us as Milly’s confessor.
He took luncheon with us on the day of our departure, and with an adroit privacy, which in a layman would have been sly, presented her, in right of his holy calling, with a little book, the binding of which was mediaeval and costly, and whose letter-press dealt in a way which he commended, with some points on which she was not satisfactory; and she found on the fly-leaf this little inscription:—’Presented to Miss Millicent Ruthyn by an earnest well-wisher, 1st December 1844.’ A text, very neatly penned, followed this; and the ‘presentation’ was made unctiously indeed, but with a blush, as well as the accustomed smile, and with eyes that were lowered.
The early crimson sun of December had gone down behind the hills before we took our seats in the carriage.
Lord Ilbury leaned with his elbow on the carriage window, looking in, and he said to me—
’I really don’t know what we shall do, Miss Ruthyn; we shall all feel so lonely. For myself, I think I shall run away to Grange.’
This appeared to me as nearly perfect eloquence as human lips could utter.
His hand still rested on the window, and the Rev. Sprigge Biddlepen was standing with a saddened smirk on the door steps, when the whip smacked, the horses scrambled into motion, and away we rolled down the avenue, leaving behind us the pleasantest house and hostess in the world, and trotting fleetly into darkness towards Bartram-Haugh.
We were both rather silent. Milly had her book in her lap, and I saw her every now and then try to read her ‘earnest well-wisher’s’ little inscription, but there was not light to read by.
When we reached the great gate of Bartram-Haugh it was dark. Old Crowl, who kept the gate, I heard enjoining the postilion to make no avoidable noise at the hall-door, for the odd but startling reason that he believed my uncle ‘would be dead by this time.’
Very much shocked and frightened, we stopped the carriage, and questioned the tremulous old porter.
Uncle Silas, it seemed, had been ‘silly-ish’ all yesterday, and ’could not be woke this morning,’ and ’the doctor had been here twice, being now in the house.’